As he prepared his weaponry, Sam's gut gurgled and he realised that he hadn't eaten all day. Just the thought of food clashed with the overdose of caffeine and adrenaline that was running through his system and made him slightly nauseous. He didn't have time for niceties, food and sleep being at the bottom of his list of priorities. If Dean had been with him, they'd have been sure to at least cat nap and fill up with chips, each making sure the other was up to getting the job done.
Right now, Sam knew he was running on the edge, but this was his brother and as much of a pain in the ass Dean was, Sam would not lose him without one hell of a fight. He'd fought for Dean even when his brother had given up on himself before, and he'd do it again. And he wouldn't think about Endicott.
Loading up the car, Sam jumped in and pulled away from the motel.
Dean had lost any concept of of time, and swimming up out of the darkness that that he'd fallen into, he found himself still in the same position, lying over the desk. With a deep groan he pulled himself upright, feeling every bruise and welt complain.
"Finish your lines boy, and you're free to leave this place," the ghost said, not unkindly, as he carefully placed the cane on the desk. The door to the room opened, the freedom it offered, tantalisingly out of reach bound as he was, not that he was entirely certain that he could make those few steps that would take him out here. "I need not tell you that you should never return to this place unless you want another detention, I'm sure."
Dazed, Dean licked his dry lips and picked up the pencil.
"We should change these last few lines," the ghost said gently, and a script appeared at the top of the next page. 'I deserve nothing but punishment and death.' "An appropriate extension from our last discussion don't you think?"
"Whatever rocks your boat," Dean muttered, and started the last hundred, repeating every line. 'I deserve nothing but punishment and death.'
Back where this all started, Sam swung the mallet at the wall where he thought the staircase to the basement should be. After just a couple of hits he could see where the edge of the door to the basement was, where the warping wood bent back from the flat lintel in protest.
Dropping the mallet, Sam felt along the edge with his fingers, pausing as a faint murmuring reached his ears. He called Dean's name but heard no response, just the constant murmuring. Frustrated and worried, Sam gave up trying to open the door and picked up the mallet once more.
When the door caved in Sam took the steps revealed two at a time, mallet at the ready as he recognised Dean's voice even though the words indistinguishable. He swung at the bottom door, the old wood cracking easily this time, and he dropped the mallet in favour of the shotgun. He absolutely was not going to be shut out again.
A quick glance showed him the situation, Dean at one desk, Jacob standing by the other.
"What happened to Lucas Ash?" Sam asked as he aimed the shotgun at the ghost. Jacob halted the hand that he had raised to do something, blast him backwards, shut the broken door, or whatever the spirit wanted to do.
"It was an accident," the ghost told him simply. "Lucas was a wicked child who would not be redeemed." He raised his hand again, but this time Sam shot him with the rock salt.
At nine hundred and fifty lines, Dean heard a crashing very far away.
At nine hundred and sixty lines he heard footsteps.
At nine hundred and seventy lines he heard Sam calling his name.
At nine hundred and seventy five lines, he heard the shotgun blast.
At nine hundred and seventy eight lines he felt Sam right next to him, calling his name. "I have to finish this," he told Sam, "the bones are in the bathroom."
At nine hundred and eighty lines he heard the boards being ripped up.
At nine hundred and ninety five lines he smelled gasoline and sulphur.
At nine hundred and ninety nine lines he stopped and looked up, working to focus eyes that just wanted to close altogether.
The ghost was standing over him with the cane. "Finish, boy, and you can leave this place."
Dean just stared at him, seeing movement in the corner of his eye as Sam approached. "I'm gonna kick your ass first, bitch," he suddenly spat, and the cane came down.
Only to be stopped by Dean's writing hand, catching and gripping it firmly. No force restricting his movements now, the ghosts power diminished with the burning of his bones. The impact stung his palm, but this was the final line and Dean was going to win come hell or high water.
Another blast of rock salt and the ghost disappeared momentarily, releasing the cane. He reappeared next to the other desk. "Finish it, boy," the ghost said, and Dean nodded his agreement slowly as Sam cut through one of the ropes binding his right ankle before moving around to free the left.
Dean looked at the healthy, unblemished skin at his inside left elbow. He'd taken eight strokes on the outside, seven on the inside. Gritting his teeth, he brought the cane down as hard as he could on the one unblemished spot, Sam's cry of dismay fading out and back in as he struggled not to faint.
The ghost was looking at him with pity mixed with understanding. "For Katie," said the ghost.
Maybe, Dean thought, but he said instead, "Or for me." Jamming the bottom of the cane against his left boot, he stood up and pushed on it with the other until the cane snapped. The ghost smiled at him and whispered in a voice filled with relief, "finally my punishment is done" before dissipating.
Dean sat back down heavily as Sam freed his left arm, leaving the rope that was so deeply embedded in the swollen flesh it would need to be removed professionally. Picking up the pencil, he wrote the last line and spoke it out loud.
"'I deserve nothing but punishment and death.'"
Sam was calling his name again, the concern in his voice urgent now. "Dean, talk to me, you don't really believe this do you? Dean come on, you're scaring me, man."
Dean couldn't look at Sam for a moment. He had nothing, knew he was destined for hell already, and death would likely claim him sooner rather than later, but Sam needed reassurance. He dredged up his best smile and looked at his brother through tired eyes. "This?" he pushed lethargically at the sheets of paper. "All bull. Took your time getting here, didn't you dude, I nearly had to rescue myself."
"Why you?" Sam asked as he helped Dean stand, looking relieved when his brother tried to brush him off. "Why not me? What's your connection to all the others?"
"Down, boy," Dean said, steadying himself with the desk. Once he'd regained his equilibrium, he answered as best he could without giving too much away. He'd already given too much up to the ghost, no way was he giving up anything to anyone else, not even his little brother. "Because I'm a badass, bro and you're just too good," Dean couldn't help that just a little bit of bitterness crept into his voice.
Sam didn't look convinced. "You sure you're all right?"
"I hope that's a rhetorical question, Sammy, 'cause I know I look shit."
Sam smiled slightly. "You know what I mean. We can fix all this Dean, but are you okay?"
"Whatever," Dean smirked, pulling his damaged arm carefully to him and doubtfully eying up the mountainous climb that was the stairs. "I'm always all right."
Sam watched Dean struggle out of the passenger side of the car, practically willing his impossibly stubborn older sibling to fall over so that he could prove his point. Dean should have stayed in the hospital overnight. The insurance would have been good that long at least, but Dean absolutely refused to see the point in staying one second longer than he had to.
With a cast and finger splints immobilising his left arm and hand, and the shallow breaths he was forced to take until the bruising and cracks in his ribs receded and healed, Dean's independence was somewhat restricted, which of course resulted in the thick headed idiot trying to prove he was in no way incapable of looking after himself.
When Dean failed to fall over and with an 'I told you so' glare made his way over to their assigned motel room, Sam grabbed their bags and locked the car up. He turned towards the motel room in time to see Dean kick the door vciously and winced when he saw the hole his brother's steel tipped boot left in the cheap plywood.
If the door had been a spirit, the scowl Dean was aiming at it would surely have sent it screaming on its way. Sam saw the problem and intended to enjoy dragging an admission out of Dean. With his hands full of bags and having had to put up with his brother's constant grumpy bitching, Sam was not in the mood to make things easy.
"What's up, bro?" he asked brightly. "Thought you couldn't wait to get a shower."
"Yeah well, can't get the cast wet," Dean told him darkly, stepping back to let Sam open the door.
Shaking the bags in his hands slightly, Sam indicated the door with his head. "My hands are full. You going to let us in some time today?" he asked smugly.
"Bitch!" Dean spun away from Sam with a frustrated sigh that ended in a muffled choke and a wince. "You win, Sammy," he snapped. "I can't open the damned door with only one hand. And I am so gonna kick your ass for pointing that out."
"Sure you are, dude," Sam grinned as he dropped the bags and opened the door, the handle and the latch requiring simultaneous maneouvres to open. He was going to tell Dean to lie down and take some more of the painkillers they'd left the hospital with, but he knew that would be the fastest way to make his brother do the exact opposite.
Instead he took out the bits and pieces they'd need from their bags and watched Dean from the corner of his eye, casually putting the meds on the side table nearest Dean's bed. Once his brother had carefully and painfully eased himself out of his jacket, and made a failed attempt to get his boots off, he pushed himself back onto the bed with a grimace. No way was Dean getting back up, so Sam felt safe bitching about doing chores by himself.
"Such a jerk," Dean muttered as he retreived his pills. "Injured person, here," he said more loudly. "Peace and quiet and rest and absolutely no chain yanking by little brothers, I remember that hot nurse specifically said that."
Sam snorted as Dean dry swallowed what seemed to be a random amount of painkillers. "I always thought you were delusional Dean, now I know for sure."
"I'm quite sure that's what she said, Sammy, right after she gave me her number."
"Definitely delusional," Sam laughed, and took himself into the bathroom for a shower. When he was standing under the hot spray, he allowed himself to relax. He hated having to look after Dean as much Dean hated to be looked after. He always felt out of his depth, and it just plain felt wrong.
And there was something else bothering him; all those men who had committed suicide, what if Dean – ?
A sudden loud thump truncated that thought and catapulted Sam out of the shower, grabbing a towel as he slammed open the door to the main room. A dent in the wall immediately above the resting place of one of Dean's boots explained the thump, and Dean's face was a picture of concentration as he tried to toe the other off.
"Peace and quiet?" Sam reminded Dean with a snap.
Dean looked him up and down, all wide eyed innocence and mild affront. "Dude, no nasty shocks. Fragile, here."
With a low growl Sam wrapped the towel around his waist and went back into the bathroom to finish off. There were times when he actually preferred his brother being stoic and mule headed. Taking some deep breaths, he put a tee and sweats on and hoped the painkillers had kicked in by now.
No such luck, but at least Dean was quiet, flicking randomly through channels on the TV while Sam settled himself at the laptop to write up Jacob's case. He needed to broach the topic that had been bothering him, but wasn't sure how to go about it without triggering Dean's defenses. After a while he said "I don't get why the suicides."
"Jake made them all face every bad thing they'd ever done," Dean said. "There were probably some guys that didn't suicide, but come on, how many guys would admit they'd been beaten up by a ghost? And it would explain why the door to the basement was hidden, maybe it was even blocked up at some point by some scared fella."
Sam stared hard at Dean who shifted uncomfortably on the bed, and decided to come right out with it. In this context, perhaps the words wouldn't sound as bad. "Are you feeling suicidal?" he asked suddenly, knowing well that his brother was no saint.
Rolling his eyes with a short hard laugh Dean shook his head tiredly. "No, Sammy, not me. I'm going to hell soon enough, no need to go express."
"I'm sorry, Dean, I had to ask." Sam shrugged, feeling inexplicably guilty for needing to ask. "I just – look, some of those men quite frankly did hardly anything, I mean all Don Taylor was guilty of was adultery, which compared to y-, compared to some people is nothing."
Dean smirked humourlessly. "Whatever. I guess some people just aren't as well adjusted as me."
Sam opened his mouth to argue the point, but Dean's eyes fluttered closed, his head rolling gently to one side. Maybe his brother had finally succumbed to the painkillers, or maybe he was faking it.
Either way this conversation was done.